My Macbook suffered a stroke last week. The screen flickered and blacked out, sighing tiny, grim puffs of smoke.
I was browsing a review of Hedi Slimane’s debut Celine show for SS2019, titled “Paris La Nuit”, at the time. People were furious that the designer had slashed-and-burned Phoebe Philo’s aesthetic — one devoted to chic, professional women who wore minimalist clothes, listened to Lykke Li, yoga-ed regularly and ordered Pumpkin Spiced Latte.
And boy, did they despise the collection. The negative bile from #HelineHaters and Celine die-hards literally smoked my laptop. Two hot tears fell from my face and stained my drainpipe YSL jeans. But I still looked fabulous. Thank you, Sir Slimane.
Incredibly, they compared Slimane to Trump, calling him misogynistic for putting girls in beautiful, crotch-skimming skirts. They complained that he was rehashing the same skinny looks from Dior Homme and Saint Laurent (To be fair, he was). They suggested that he was a man who had no right designing for women.
Really now. It’s 2018. I knew fashion victims were single-minded in their pursuit of judgement, but I never knew them to be myopic.
I enjoy creative destruction. I watch with glee when institutions crumble and upstarts take over. Gucci and Balenciaga had demonstrated how lucrative a certain shamelessness can be. Clash, slap your logo on everything, and overstate as much as possible. Millennials and wanky monied types will eat it up.
Let’s not forget Slimane’s monumental check-list. Is copying an option when you’re tasked by fashion’s most powerful magnate, Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH, to double Celine’s annual sales of £800m (S$1.3bn)? It’s not exactly the time to, shall we say, experiment.
Should you “infuse” legacy looks from another designer into your work? Do you compromise your vision and ignore the fans who made you? No creative worth his salt will say yes. As Slimane told Le Figaro, “You don’t enter a fashion house to imitate the work of your predecessor.”
I like how Hedi Slimane has flipped the bird to everyone precious about old Celine. Isn’t fashion about trampling on the status quo? The designer told WWD recently, “Does this mean women are no longer free to wear miniskirts if they wish? The comparisons to Trump are opportunistic, rather bold and fairly comical, just because the young women in my show are liberated and carefree. They are free to dress as they see fit.”
And what if Slimane stayed true to Celine’s sensibilities? Let’s imagine that for a moment. Will these fashion victims welcome Philo’s up-cycled looks, under Slimane? Or will they tweet irreconcilable comments like, “He’s pandering”, “He’s stealing from Phoebe”, “Hedi Slimane is dead.” Too real? Can you really win in fashion?
It’s the same reason why we — professionals who keep neat desks, yoga regularly and order Pumpkin Spice Latte — keep buying the same basics. The same jeans. Coats of the same cuts. These are a “sure thing”. And God knows we need something real we can touch these days.
I am certain an intelligent woman like Phoebe Philo expects nothing less than an overhaul of Celine after ditching the house in December. She might be enjoying all of this, like Hedi Slimane’s skinny, pale fans. Just as they consumed from Dior Homme and YSL, they will drink from the fountain of Celine without the accent.
The cult of Hedi Slimane does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a lucrative formula of dressing aloof club kids in cigarette jeans, flirty micro-skirts and pin-sharp tailoring. Clothes, unfortunately, that real people wear.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Keyyes.